Monday, March 19, 2018

"A Chance at Forever" by Melissa Jagears - prepare to be challenged

A Chance at Forever (Teaville Moral Society, #3)Mercy McClain, a member of the Teaville school board, is shocked to recognize Aaron Firebrook, a bully from her childhood, applying for the open teaching position. She has no intention of letting the bully who ruined her childhood having any authority over the children. While the hiring decision is put off until more candidates can be interviewed, Mercy is shocked yet again to discover Aaron has been hired to tutor some of the children at the orphanage Mercy helps run. Aaron claims to be a changed man, but can a man really change that much?

As with the previous books of the series, Jagears takes on heavy subjects of morality that are relevant both in the past and yet today. The author does a good job being fair in her portrayal of bullies. While bullying is in no way condoned, she makes a point of bringing up that every bully has a history, and sometimes a child is lashing out because of terrible things that happen behind closed doors. It doesn't excuse a bully's choices, but by understanding what can drive a child to bullying, it could mean getting a child help. In the case of Aaron's history, the author doesn't explicitly say what sort of abuse Aaron suffered, but one can draw some grim conclusions. It's brave of the author to delve into another of the grittier parts of reality, and she does so with taste.

If you're looking for light reading, this probably isn't the best choice. The story doesn't suffer for its heavier themes, but the tough questions posed to the characters (and subsequently readers)--not to mention the emotional impact of physical follow-through--can leave one exhausted, even in a story rife with forgiveness and hope. The story isn't a downer--it's actually quite uplifting, especially the epilogue. But it's a hard book to read purely for entertainment purposes without taking the time to ponder some of the issues it brings up.

As with the rest of the series, prepare to be challenged.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for the free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Teaville Moral Society
0.5: "Engaging the Competition" (Prequel novella from With This Ring? novella collection)
1. A Heart Most Certain
2. A Love So True
2.5: "Tied and True" (novella from collection Hearts Entwined)
3. A Chance at Forever

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"All This Time" by Melissa Tagg - a heartwarming conclusion to the series

All this Time (Walker Family, #4)Years ago, Bear McKinley gave up his reputation and life for family, and now they need help again--this time dumping his niece and nephew on him when he doesn't even have a job or home. Thankfully, Maple Valley, the place where  he'd started over before, is still a refuge--and his friend Raegan is ready and willing to welcome him home. For the record, Raegan Walker is fine. Just because she's stayed at home her whole life, scarcely stepping foot outside town, with no ambition for greatness like all her older siblings, there's nothing wrong with her life. Though sometimes she might wish for a life that is better than merely fine. However, when a commission for a painting--her old love--and Bear arrive in the same week, maybe she can reach for something better--if she can face the fears that have held her back for so many years.

Like each other book by Melissa Tagg I've read, this one can make you smile in one sentence and cry in the next--a heartwarming romance with both depth and humor. She has a way of pinpointing the root of a character's inner struggles, and making it easy to see that root in ourselves, all packaged in a fun and wholesome romance.

I have to say, I didn't expect Raegan's secret or Bear's past, but man, I get Raegan; not that I have panic attacks, or exhibit my fears in the same way, but I understand that fear of sharing when something is wrong, to be able to hold secrets so close to the chest that the people who know you best have no idea they're even there. Not a recommended course of action, but I get it.

I was surprised and intrigued by the touch of suspense to the story--not enough to tip this into the romantic suspense genre, but enough to shake things up for Maple Valley! It was a fun and fitting turn of events, given Bear's history. The romance was just as sweet and satisfying as I expected (and my expectations have been high, since I've been waiting on it since book one!). It's a great conclusion to the Walker Family series, though I am sad to see it end. Can't wait for whatever the author has coming next!

Walker Family
0.5: Three Little Words (novella)
1. From the Start
2. Like Never Before
3. Keep Holding On
3.5: "A Maple Valley Romance" (published in Right Where We Belong collection of small-town novellas)
4. All This Time

Related Series:
Enchanted Christmas Collection (now together in the omnibus Enchanted)
1. One Enchanted Christmas
2. One Enchanted Eve
3. One Enchanted Noel

Friday, March 9, 2018

"A Search for Refuge" by Kristi Ann Hunter

A Search for Refuge (Haven Manor, #0.5)Margaretta desperately needs to escape London society, and it isn't just the flighty whim of a spoiled miss. Trying to trace the path of a friend who recently vanished into the countryside, she follows the trail to the town of Marlborough, the girl's last known location. While seeking word of her, Margaretta attracts the attention of a local solicitor--and attracting attention is the last thing she wants to do. Will she find her friend, or will she find a better solution to her troubles?

I always love a good story, but I really appreciate it when a prequel sets up a series--and this book does a perfect job. Not only is it a different spin on why a girl might find herself alone and on the run, but it also sets up a haven for others in desperate need, and hence the series. As such, it has a bit heavier subject matter than the author's previous books, but it promises to be both intriguing and moving. I just wish we didn't have to wait until June for the first full-length novel! And in case you were worried, the story is still rich with the author's characteristic humor, and heart-warming as ever.

And it's free! (e-book only)

Haven Manor
0.5: "A Search for Refuge"
1. A Defense of Honor (June 2018)

Monday, March 5, 2018

"The Innkeeper's Daughter" by Michelle Griep

The Innkeeper's DaughterBow Street Runner Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambler in hopes of exposing a traitor against his country. He stay's at Joanna Langley's inn, and quickly has her believing him to be the rogue he portrays. But as he gets to know the young innkeeper--a girl who bears a heavy financial burden to keep herself and her mother and brother out of the workhouse--he wishes she might see him as the man he is and not what he appears.

It's funny how authors will strike on a similar idea at the same time; this is the second novel I've read recently about a female Regency-era innkeeper (the other being Julie Klassen's The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill), though that's where the similarities end. They are very different in tone. This one is more suspenseful, with significantly more danger (not unexpected, given our hero is a lawman working on ferreting out a traitor).

I have to admit, I saw Johanna and Alex's conflict coming a mile away--it's pretty much inevitable that a woman who hates liars will fall for a man who is undercover and can't share the truth. All the expected problems ensue. Otherwise, the author does a good job filling the story with interesting and often quirky characters, the most notable of which being Mr. Nutbrown.

One thing I really liked was the author's ability to show rather than tell--I'd wondered why the two smugglers would insist on dragging other people into their schemes until I caught on to their illiteracy, which is never explicitly stated. The clues are all there pointing to it, but it's up to the reader to figure out. And THAT, by the way, is a legitimate reason for a bad guy to drag the good guys into their schemes--the necessity of a skill set they lack. I enjoyed the twists and surprises at the end; I had wondered how all the complex plot pieces would fit together, and they came together most pleasingly.

Thank you Barbour and NetGalley for the free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Related novels: Brentwood's Ward

Friday, March 2, 2018

NEW Christian Fiction Releases March 2018

A nice historical lineup for the month of March--lots of British reads, for those who enjoy stories taking place across the pond!

A Search for Refuge (Haven Manor, #0.5) The Innkeeper's Daughter The Heart's Appeal (London Beginnings #2)
"A Search for Refuge" by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House); Haven Manor, book 0.5

A young woman who desperately needs to disappear from London follows rumors of another woman who managed to make a life away from society.

The Innkeeper's Daughter by Michelle Griep (Barbour)

A British officer goes undercover as a gambler in hopes of exposing a plot against the king, but his loyalties are divided when the woman he has come to care for is in danger of being sent to the workhouse.

The Heart's Appeal by Jennifer Delamere (Bethany House); London Beginnings, book 2

A woman who has come to London to become a doctor saves the life of a barrister, changing his life in more ways than he could have imagined.

A Borrowed Dream (Cimarron Creek Trilogy #2) A Chance at Forever (Teaville Moral Society #3)
A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot (Revell); Cimarron Creek, book 2

A teacher who hates doctors finds herself falling for a rancher who is hiding his past as a surgeon.

A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears (Bethany House); Teaville Moral Society, book 3

She joins the school board to protect children from the bullying she experienced as a child, only to discover the worst bully of her childhood is applying for a teaching position, claiming to be a changed man.

Monday, February 26, 2018

"A Refuge Assured" by Jocelyn Green--strong story, richly detailed, and with much to make one think

A Refuge AssuredIn revolutionary France, Lacemaker Vivienne Renard finds herself condemned to the guillotine by virtue of her profession, if she should be denounced. Making an escape to America, Vivienne finds herself embroiled in the American Whiskey Rebellion--and still not far from the danger of Jacobite sympathizers. When a young boy who some believe might be the Dauphin comes into her care, Vivienne will do everything she can to care for him, but it's hard to know whom to trust. Liam Delaney finds himself pulled both ways in the Whiskey Rebellion, when all he wants is to own and settle on his own land. Drawn together in the turmoil, will Vivienne and Liam find the peace and refuge they long for?

As always, Jocelyn Green delivers an in-depth historical read that doesn't hesitate to dig into the wrongs perpetrated by humanity. However, as heated as the issues are, they don't take away from a moving and fascinating story.

Oddly, as an American, I knew nothing about the Whiskey Rebellion, yet have studied and read quite a bit on the French Revolution, which made this book an eye-opener. And after reading this, my conclusion about the French Revolution--and now additionally the Whiskey Rebellion--is that this is what happens when God is taken from the picture. In trying to right a wrong, "everyone did what was right in his own eyes"--and in doing so, compounded the wrongs. I can understand Liam's struggle with balancing freedom with obedience to government, because the lines are not always clear-cut. The side in the right doesn't always DO right. And sometimes each side is in the right and wrong at the same time. Conclusion: this is a book to really make you think and reconsider politics versus morality.

While there are a lot of questions in the story, there is also a lot of beauty. I really appreciated how things turn out for Vivienne and Armand. Liam is a fantastic hero--both a rule-follower, yet not afraid to break the rules (odd combination, but he manages it!). The author really fleshes out her world, so that whichever the setting, it feels like we're there with them. A pleasure to read!

Thank you Bethany House for a free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Related novel: The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"A Light on the Hill" by Connilyn Cossette

A Light on the Hill (Cities of Refuge, #1)Having been branded in Jericho years before, Moriyah has given up on finding a husband, until her father arranges a match for her. When her attempt to please her future husband goes horribly wrong, she is forced to flee for her life, hoping to find safety in one of the Levitical cities of refuge. But that's if she can survive the journey first . . .

I really liked how the author brings out one of the more obscure parts of the old testament: the cities of refuge, a refuge for manslayers who have killed accidentally. Since there aren't any specific accounts of the cities in the bible--just the rules regarding them--it gives the author free reign to focus on the story without worrying about getting the biblical account wrong (something I'm generally keen to notice). And even so, the author surprised me with how adventurous this story managed to be; it wasn't what I expected, yet I liked it more, and it was fun to catch the connection to her previous series. And I can see how it is setting up the next book in the series.

I liked how the author was able to work new testament symbolism into an old testament-time story. Even though Jesus won't be born for another couple thousand years or so, the author brings out how the death of the high priest will atone for the guilt of the manslayers--implying that just as Jesus, also described as a high priest, atoned for the guilt of all in his death.

This is the kind of biblical fiction I like--fiction taking place in biblical times without trying to retell the bible. Adventurous, romantic, and full of hope.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Cities of Refuge
1. A Light on the Hill
2. Shelter of the Most High (October 2018)

Related series:
Out from Egypt
1. Counted with the Stars
2. Shadow of the Storm
3. Wings of the Wind